Have you ever wondered about the US Special Operations Forces and the story that lies behind? Well, we have to tell you that it is a rather painful one.
In his interview with Mark Bowden, a journalist writing a book about bin Laden operations, President Obama provided a brief explanation, saying the following: “Special Forces are well designed to deal with the very specific targets in difficult terrain and often-times prevent us from making the bigger strategic mistakes of sending forces in, with big footprints and so forth.” He also added: “So when you’re talking about dealing with terrorist networks, in failed states, or states that don’t have capacity, you can see that as actually being less intrusive, less dangerous, less problematic for the country involved.”
Just to make things clear, what the President referred to as “special forces” were, in fact, special operations forces (SOF), which soon became “the centerpiece of Obama’s national-security strategy.” These include Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Night Stalkers, Special Operations Marines, and, of course, Army’s Special Forces.
The sad history of SOF growth starts during the first months of U.S. participation in World War II. For three years (1942-1945), the Army Rangers, the Marine Corps Raiders, the Navy Frogmen, and the special operators of the civilian-led Office of Strategic Services (OSS) were the ones to execute some rather difficult operations, and thus, these served as role models for future operators afterward.
However, this beginning was somewhat rough – someone once said that SOF “began as unwanted stepchildren.” It was not until 1986 when the Special Operations Command in Tampa was created that SOF was on the right track. Then, right at the beginning of the 21st century, special operation forces reached a number of 70,000 troops. One of the main reasons why SOF grew so successfully is that there were “men of exceptional talent, courage, dedication, and selflessness” who were there to volunteer and as special operators. Nonetheless, these men were only human, after all, thus, susceptible to folly, fear, stress, and bad judgment. So, in addition to glory, this story is also interwoven with suffering and death.